On a recent trip to Melbourne, I spent a couple of nights checking out Marriott’s latest Australian offering, AC Hotel by Marriott. The property marks the debut of the AC brand in Australia and forms part of Marriott’s select service portfolio which includes familiar names such as Four Points by Sheraton, Courtyard & Aloft.
A bit of history lesson on the brand. The brand AC Hotels was found by a Spanish hotelier named Antonio Catalan (hence AC) in 1997. The group operated independently until 2011 when Marriott stepped in and took over management.
As at the time of writing this post, there are over 180 AC Hotels around the world, mainly in Continental Europe, but increasingly also in Asia and North America.
AC Hotels by Marriott Melbourne is located in Southbank, about 4 km’s from Flinders Street station. There are trams, taxis and numerous rideshare options which could whisk you from the hotel to central Melbourne in about 10 minutes.
If you are driving from the Airport, it should take you approx 45 minutes to reach the hotel depending on the traffic situation. I jumped on an Ola which dropped me at the hotel front door in about 40 minutes and cost $55.
The hotel itself is housed in a mixed use development, (part hotel part private residence) and is located next to a busy freeway. That said, the double glazing on the windows and heavy duty curtains cut-out most of the noise so that really wasn’t something that bothered me.
If you are in Melbourne on a shopping trip, DFO South Wharf Shopping Centre is barely 5 minutes away. Weather permitting, you could also walk down to the Crown Casino, Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre and even up to the Southern Cross train station. Anything beyond that, it’s probably best to catch public transport.
I booked my stay at the hotel long before it opened. Cash prices at the time were hovering around $220 per night for the Deluxe King room, which is the entry level room at this hotel. I then applied 2 Suite Night Awards (SNA’s) to my booking.
About 5 days out from my check-in date, I received an email from Marriott advising that the SNA’s have cleared and I had been upgraded into the hotel’s Signature Suite which was their highest category room. As things turned out, this wasn’t really true.
Later that day, I received a call from the hotel and was told that the upgrade email was an error. The explanation was that the Suite had been incorrectly approved by Marriott HQ and that the highest category room eligible for an upgrade with SNA was the Premium King room, which was a level down from the Suite.
To it’s credit, the hotel apologised for the error and promised to take it up with Marriott so that this doesn’t re-occur in future. It also offered to place me in the Premium King Room and redeposit the SNA’s back into my account. The other option they offered me was a discounted cash upgrade into the Suite.
Ideally speaking, as a long time Marriott loyalist and a Titanium elite I would have liked them to comp the Suite upgrade, it was Marriott’s fault after all. But given that my stay coincided with the Queen’s birthday long weekend and the hotel was confident of selling out the Suites, after a little bit of back n forth we settled on an upgrade price which I thought was fair.
To be clear, I wasn’t happy paying for the upgrade and almost declined the offer. However, as this was going to be my first ever stay at the AC brand and I had long planned to review the property, I decided to take it up in the anticipation that this would at least allow me to experience the very best of it’s offering.
A Spend $400 Get $100 back Amex offer brought down the average cost of my stay to just under $300 a night, which is about the upper limit of what I like to spend when paying cash.
If you are looking to redeem points, a night in the Deluxe King Room can be had for up to 30,000 points per night. Make sure you check the cash prices before you finalise the booking as that can sometimes provide better value.
Arrival & Check-in
I arrived at the hotel just after 2 pm. As you come in through the door, there is a solitary concierge desk on the ground floor. I was greeted by a staff member who advised that the main reception was located on Level 7.
He escorted me to the bank of lifts which are accessed through a ramp-like narrow pathway to the left of the concierge desk.
At the time of my stay, the hotel had been open for less than a month and everything looked spic and span. As I stepped off the lift on Level 7, the reception was to my left.
I walked-up to the check-in desk and was immediately presented with a welcome drink made up of slices of burnt oranges & vodka. It was delicious.
A few moments later, I was offered a second welcome drink, a glass of sparkling wine which I politely declined.
The check-in process wasn’t the smoothest as the pricing quoted by the front office staff didn’t match with what I had agreed upon with the hotel over the phone. She then disappeared into one of the back offices & sought assistance from her supervisor who was able to fix it.
Then at another time, one of the ipad’s on the counter (pictured above) that the hotel uses for guests to read, accept and sign the T&C’s was discharged and didn’t work.
Both minor points, but for a newly opened hotel in a red hot hotel-market like Melbourne where guests are absolutely spoilt for choice, every little bit can mean the difference between winning or losing business. As a Marriott Bonvoy Titanium member, I was offered a choice of welcome gift which was a choice between 1,000 points or free breakfast. I chose the latter.
With formal business out of the way, I picked up the keys and proceeded to Room 1903 on Level 19, which is the highest level with guest rooms.
AC Hotel by Marriott Melbourne – Signature Suite
As I entered the room, I was immediately struck by the enormous, floor-to-ceiling, wrap-around windows in the living/seating area of the suite.
The positioning of the suite (in a corner and right at the end of the corridor) means guests are in for a visual treat. There are expansive views of the Crown Casino & Melbourne CBD skyline on one side and the Westgate bridge on the other.
To be clear, there is also a large parking lot, a tram depot & fast-flowing traffic on the nearby freeway which I mentioned earlier, but none of these – in my opinion detract from the 180 degree views.
Back in, there is a tub-chair & a multi-seater L shaped fabric couch near the entrance.
Although the couch doesn’t convert into a fold out sofa bed, if you are travelling with a small child, it is possible to rejig pieces of the couch and turn it into a make-shift bed.
In between the chair & sofa, there was a record player and a bunch of records – evidence that more & more newly opened hotels are eschewing high-tech gadgets in favour of old world nostalgia.
Directly opposite to the sofa, there is a half-wall with a flat screen TV and the thermostat.
Further along, there was a 4 seater dining table with some in-room amenity and a hand written welcome note.
Then on the far end of the living room – you had a desk & couple of chairs, very useful if you are travelling for business, or, as is increasingly the trend in this post-covid world, on a workcation.
There was a small kitchenette style set-up opposite to the work desk.
The faux-marble counter top had a coffee maker, an electric kettle to heat up water, coffee mugs, tea spoons, bottled water, a leather-clad drawer containing provisions to make tea and coffee and pieces of art work.
Then you had a decent sized sink and an empty bar fridge underneath.
There was nothing by the way of a mini bar or any (over-priced) sweet or sugary snacks that you routinely see at most hotel’s. Anyhow, over all – I thought the living room was very well constructed and tastefully appointed. It’s probably what will allow the hotel to sell the suite for a four-figure price during busy travel period.
A small opening in the wall takes you from the living room to the bedroom, or a more accurate description of this space will be bedroom-cum-bathroom.
I say this because the bedroom on the right seamlessly blends with the bathroom on the left as you can tell from the picture below. There is no physical separation between the two, no sliding door, not even a flimsy curtain.
It may be the latest trend or perhaps what the hotel’s younger clientele demand, or may be I am just getting old, whatever the cause, I am not really a fan of this style of set up 😒
To the right of this space, you have a king bed flanked with bed stands on either side.
One of the stands featured a transistor from the yesteryear, while the other one had a writing pad, an alarm clock, a phone and the all important power board with 2 USB ports and sockets to charge your electronic devices.
On the wall opposite from the bed, you had the bedroom TV. On either side of the TV, there were wardrobes with space for clothes and other personal belongings. One of the wardrobes also contained an electronic safe to store any valuables.
Then on the corner and along the wall & window, there was a day bed upholstered in fine fabric adorned with a bunch of cushions.
The bathroom was to the left, barely a metre or two away from the bed with a gleaming, deep-soaking tub forming the centrepiece.
The vanity was to the left of the tub. It featured a very large sink with dual taps.
There was dyson branded hair dryer and hair straightener, a magnifying mirror to apply make up, toiletries and towels on the counter top. The pull out case contained a pair of dental kits and other items of personal hygiene.
To the right of the bathtub, you had the toilet & shower. A pair of freshly laundered bathrobes hung on the wall outside.
I felt like the shower was somewhat of a tight squeeze. It had dual showerheads with consistent water pressure & temperature which made showering a very pleasant exercise. Korres branded bath products were of good quality and supplied in large pump bottles fitted on the shower wall.
The hotel puts the size of Signature Suite at about 770 sq ft and the living room does feel open & spacious. The bedroom, not so much. Stunning and impressive as the living room is, you can’t help the feeling that that has been achieved by sacrificing some of the square footage from the bedroom.
AC Hotel by Marriott Melbourne – Dining
The property offers limited dining option, with the Spanish themed Sorolla being the sole restaurant. Located on Level 7 which is the same level as the main reception, it is open daily for breakfast and Tuesday to Saturday for dinner.
I had breakfast at Sorolla on both mornings I was there and came away impressed with it’s somewhat limited but high quality offering. The buffet style fare had all the usual staples that you expect at a hotel breakfast, I will let the pictures do the talking for this part.
There was an assortment of breads, all kinds of breakfast cereals and fruit juices.
Tea & Coffee were machine made and you had to help yourself which was a downer. If you wanted a barista made coffee served on table, there were extra charges.
I must say, this is a practice that until now, I have only mostly come across at Hilton properties. But it seems that the bad habit is starting to creep into Marriott hotels too.
Personally speaking, I savoured the Spanish style omelette on one morning which was delicious.
The hotel’s flagship drinking venue, Bar Triana is located just outside Sorolla. It features a stunning bar with a long counter and high-top seating where guests can indulge in signature AC Gin & Tonic.
Lastly there is Bar de Buceo, hotel’s pool bar with outdoor terrace seating on Level 7. It opens at mid day and serves excellent cocktails until 9 pm.
AC Hotel by Marriott Melbourne – Guest Amenities
AC Lounge is the hotels’ communal seating space. Located adjacent from the reception on Level 7, this is an ideal spot for business travellers to wind down with a few drinks or families to connect over light bites which you can order from Bar Triana.
The property boasts of an infinity edge pool on Level 6. Unfortunately, the cold & windy weather in Melbourne at the time meant that it was largely deserted, save for a couple of rugged-up social media influencers (or blogger 😉) trying to get that perfect shot.
The few loungers on the pool deck had no takers.
Finally, a few metres from the pool, you have the hotel’s fitness centre. It is large, bright and very well stocked with all sorts of cardio equipment and weight machines.
The gym is supplied with towels, a water fountain and male & female bathrooms.
AC Hotel by Marriott – Service
Service for the most part was acceptable. The staff appeared motivated and willing to assist. A couple of points though.
After protracted discussions on pricing at the time of check-in, quite unbelievably, I had a similarly uncomfortable experience at check-out. It appeared that the person I spoke to over the phone either hadn’t updated the pricing information on my booking or the front office staff weren’t trained properly. This was eventually fixed.
Next, on both mornings when I turned up for breakfast, the staff couldn’t find my room no. on their list and went on to quote me the breakfast price. This was after I was asked & had selected breakfast as my welcome gift at check-in. There can be little excuse for such gaps in communication.
To buttress the point a little further, I got the feeling that the hotel hadn’t trained their staff on breakfast eligibility for Marriott elites, although that’s more a reflection of Marriott’s ridiculously complicated breakfast rules than anything else.
All said & done, when you consider the short time the hotel has been open and the general trend in hospitality industry where large numbers of experienced staff have quit the industry, I will not hold these indiscretions against them.
AC Hotel by Marriott Melbourne continues Marriott’s brisk expansion into the Australian market. For whatever reason, Marriott markets the AC brand under Select Service and while that may be true in general, the Melbourne property easily outshines other brands in the Select Service portfolio.
AC Hotel by Marriott Melbourne ticks most of the boxes that Marriott loyalists value, though it can definitely benefit with some additional training to staff, particularly around the rules guiding breakfast for elites.
If you can get over the location, which I know can sometimes be the deal breaker for some people, the property otherwise offers guests a well rounded experience.
Have you stayed at AC Hotel by Marriott Melbourne? Leave a comment below.